March 31, 2016

A Break in the Middle of it All

On the to-do list: Change ink cartridges in printer

So. I just came back, let's see, 4 days ago, from a culture-sanctioned life-break commonly referred to as: Spring Break.

At some point in our culture, everyone got together and agreed that we would celebrate the end of winter and the coming of spring with a little time off. The schools let my kids off of the hook. Nobody questions it when my husband takes time off work. We load everything into the car and head out on a family vacation.

Which means that I just had a "break."

So can someone explain to me why I so badly want another one?

Is it Spring Fever? Is it longing for summer? Is it rebellion against the routine? Boredom with the monotony? Overwhelm with all of the activities?

I don't know what it is, but I just want a break in the middle of it all. Not a regularly scheduled holiday. Not a culturally-sanctioned vacation. A Break. In the middle. Of it all.

In the middle of the school commute. In the middle of the after school activities. In the middle of the laundry and cleaning. In the middle of the phone calls and emails. In the middle of the appointments. In the middle of the mountains of paperwork. In the middle of all of the crap that I feel like I have to get done EVERY DAY.

I just want a break.

My husband says, "Take a break."
My husband says, "Don't do it all."
My husband says, "Stop."

But my head says no. My head says you have shit to do. My head says you've got to get it all done. My head says you're not doing enough each day. My head says you've got to earn your keep. My head says you've got to do more, be more, do better, be better.

On the other hand, my body asks...Can we take a nap? How about a leisurely walk?

And my heart? Well, my heart is torn. My heart has too many things that it wants to do and not enough time to do it...especially since my head keeps taking up all the time with its "getting shit done."

I hate getting shit done. I hate my to-do list.

I feel like a teenager rebelling against the parent who's telling me what to do...except somehow I'm both the kid and the parent in this scenario.

Which is way weird.

I want to stomp my foot and say no. I want to ball my hands into fists and scrunch up my face in anger and rebellion and scream about how unfair it all is. I want to run to my room and slam the door and turn my music up loud and block out the everything-- most especially the voice in my head that's telling me to get off my ass and...make that call, clean that stove, get that workout in, walk that dog, play with those kids, organize that stuff...

But I won't.

What I will do, most likely, is go get more shit done.

I'd write more, but I have dog messes to clean up and laundry to fold and thank you notes to write and garden beds to weed and...


Until next time, I wish for you duct cover up the mouth of the voice in your head that keeps telling you to do more.

March 18, 2016

Eulogy Virtues vs. Resume Virtues

I recently saw an interview Oprah did with a man named David Brooks. His face looked sort of familiar, but I wouldn't have been able to place it without some background. Turns out he's a writer and political pundit (a term that makes me go, eew). But that's not why Oprah was interviewing him.

Apparently, a few years ago it occurred to David Brooks that he, like many of us, might possibly be focusing his energies on the wrong things. I have to believe that Brooks spends much of his work life surrounded by a combination of really smart people, really powerful people and real dirtbags (these categories are likely not mutually exclusive). I imagine this might make the idea of "focusing our energies on the wrong things" even more glaringly obvious than what most of us experience day-to-day.

Anyway, I watched this interview and found it really thought-provoking and rather interesting. And then I went back about my regular business. Not long after I watched the interview, I came across a NY Times article he'd written on the same topic, when someone shared it on Facebook...then I saw his book on Amazon...then I saw his TED Talk.

So here's the thing. I kind of feel like the universe sends us signs of things we need to focus on. And, if we're paying attention, we can find the lessons we need to learn or what we need to work on in our lives and ourselves this way. So, I think the universe is telling me that there's something in David Brooks' message that I need to focus on. And here's what I think it is:

Live for your eulogy, not your resume.

Weird sounding?


But Brooks found a very succinct, easy to understand, bumper-sticker worthy way of capturing a really important idea with Eulogy Virtues vs. Resume Virtues. Here's the core of what he says:

It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?
We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones. But our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light. Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.
He goes on to expand on how we can go about building these eulogy virtues by focusing on building humility and other-centeredness, confronting our own weaknesses, being committed to others, giving love, finding and following our calling, and letting go of labels and being our true selves. We must allow ourselves to stumble, then get back up and move on. We must focus not on being better than others, but on being better than we used to be.

He captures, in his talks and articles, things that I've been focusing on more and more since having kids. But I've found that it's so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day stuff and sucked into focusing on what our culture deems important. Though it shouldn't be, it's somehow easy to lose sight of what's important to me.  And, I have to believe that I'm not alone in this.

I've mentioned in prior posts, I think, that I am a big fan of having mantras and touchpoints-- easy reminders of what I want to focus on. I own bracelets that say "Only Love Today" and "Live Hands Free," I have a necklace that says "Writer" and I've taken to writing a daily intention on my hand with a ballpoint pen (things like: Stay loose. and Have fun. and Focus on Love.). All ways of reminding myself throughout the day--when things get crazy, when I feel overwhelmed, when I get tired and cranky-- of how I want to live the moments of my life.

So, for me, this "eulogy over resume" idea is an easy way to remind myself of what's important to me...and where I want to focus my time and energy everyday. On being kind, brave, honest and faithful. On loving deeply. And all the other things I value...

Food for thought.

Until next time, give some thought to what you want people saying in your eulogy...and then see if how you live your life, day in and day out, and where you focus your time and energy is in line with where you want things to be in the end.

P.S. If you'd like to read/watch more of what David Brooks has to say on this topic, check out these his NY Times article: The Moral Bucket List, to his TED Talk: TED Talk: Should you live for your resume...or your eulogy?, to his book (which I haven't read yet, but may add to my list now): Amazon: The Road to Character, and to clips from his Oprah interview: Oprah Interview. Or Google him...there's lots more. Happy reading and pondering.